Economics Fairs Market Spain

Arco Madrid soldiers on

Foreign visitors flock to support the fair, but the atmosphere remains muted amid Spain’s austerity measures

Helga de Alvear sold a photo by Isaac Julien, Yishan Island, Long March, for £36,000, but revealed, “I haven’t sold anything at the gallery for months.”

It has been a tough time for Arco Madrid. While many Spanish collectors were hoping to buy works at the recent fair (14-17 February), the majority of galleries were counting on European and South American shoppers. A report published in October by the Fundacion Arte y Mecenazgo (Foundation for art and patronage) highlighted a fall in art sales of 33%, on both the primary and secondary markets, since 2007. Spain is currently suffering from 25% unemployment alongside budget cuts of up to 30% in certain art institutions.

Over the past three years, the fair’s organisers have made efforts to strengthen ties with foreign collectors under the direction of Carlos Urroz, and despite the austerity programme being implemented across the Iberian peninsula, foreign visitors flocked to support the fair. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was muted.

Some galleries got off to a flying start, however. Galerie Lelong sold a large alabaster sculpture by Jaume Plensa, Awilda VII, 2011, for €240,000 to a Spanish collector, while Helga de Alvear sold a photo by Isaac Julien, Yishan Island, Long March, for £36,000, a nice surprise for the Madrid-based dealer, who revealed: “I haven’t sold anything at the gallery for months.”

Carlos Durán, from Senda Gallery, Barcelona, believes the government should lower the rate of VAT on works of art, which today is at 21%. “I’m not able to compete with my European colleagues with a VAT rate like this,” he said.

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